Why the Scourge Strike Redesign is Amazing

26 10 2009

Around when the DK Q&A came out, I was pretty unhappy with Armor Penetration as a whole. Back then, I was Frost specced (in those days Obliterate was not the primary source of damage) and thought that I would never want to see ArPen on my gear. Ever. When 3.2 hit and I started Dual Wielding, things changed. Obliterate was a lot better than it was and as a result so was ArPen. Since then I’ve switched to Blood and ArPen is the best stat besides Strength, but that’s beside the point.

The worst thing that happened to DKs since Wrath was when Unholy Death Knights started using Obliterate. Deep Unholy, that is (not counting the 32/39 builds of old that used Howling Blast). Why, you ask? Well, on the surface Obliterate and SS aren’t very different. They’re both use an Unholy and a Frost Rune and hit for some % of weapon damage plus some other damage.

It’s the texture that matters

To me, though, SS and Obliterate feel different. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like casting Death Strike, Obliterate, and Scourge Strike each have unique associations. In this comparison, Obliterate is on the generic side since its only unique aspect is that it removes diseases (which can be talented away). Its respective glyph is also a flat damage increase rather than one that’s dependent on other factors.

Moving on, though, I think it’s important that each talent tree uses different strikes or else they’ll all start feeling the same. So when I read that Scourge Strike was being redesigned in 3.3 into an attack that initially does physical damage and then shadow damage based on the physical part, well, I was happy. I used to be despondent about how ArPen sucked for 2/3 specs, but Blizzard has managed to quietly make it useful while maintaining each tree’s uniqueness. Well played, Blizzard, well played.

Glyph of Disease: Revolutions

31 08 2009

This post may or may not be the complete opposite of my earlier post that generated some rather passionate comments.



Since then, things have changed a bit, especially for Frost. The main reason is the discovery that, much like how Lifebloom worked in previous eras, you can pop trinkets and time with procs to get the most AP, apply new diseases, and refresh the boosted disease ad nauseam (unless the fight is such that you can’t help your diseases falling off).

For Frost DW (if you don’ t have to provide the haste buff), you also aren’t losing much by ditching the IT glyph, which was the major disadvantage of using Glyph of Disease in previous patches. Frost DW runs in Blood Presence, and with the IT glyph frequently has an abundance of unusable procs and RP. So by using GoD, you lose the functionality of overflowing RP (for IBF and AMS) and gain significantly better disease damage and more space in your rotation.

Using the glyph comes with a caveat, however. Many fights simply don’t allow it to be used effectively, both in Ulduar and Trial of the Crusader. Basically, the glyph won’t help you if you have to keep applying diseases the standard way with Icy Touch and Plague Strike. Some examples of bad fights for the GoD are Northrend Beasts, Twin Valkyries, Faction Champions, Yogg.. the list goes on.

If you have the liberty of having two DPS specs, having one DW Frost with GoD can be very beneficial especially for sit-and-DPS fights like Vezax. Right now my secondary DPS spec is DW Frost with Endless Winter for free interrupts that I use for Faction Champions and other interrupt fights. If you’re not an off-spec tank, don’t be afraid to use one general one and another very specialized one for certain situations. My primary spec is Blood, which is good at basically everything but interrupting, since losing 20 RP at crucial moments in your rotation is frustrating (due to the Death Strike glyph and the large amount of RP that DRW uses up).

P.S. There’s a new, updated thread for Unholy over at EJ which I encourage you to check out if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

Dual Wielding, Post-3.2

6 08 2009

I’ve had a chance to test out DW Frost in some raids, so I thought I’d share some observations.

Problem #1: Blood Presence leads to an extremely tight rotation with barely any room to Frost Strike enough to avoid capping RP

Solution #1. Switch out the IT glyph for something else

If I’m not using the extra RP, the glyph doesn’t do anything worthwhile. Your best option for a replacement is Glyph of Blood Strike, but you need to have either a Frostfire Mage or a Druid with Infected Wounds (unlike Torment the Weak, the Mage talent, the BS glyph requires a movement slowing effect in order to activate). Failing this, you can go with Glyph of the Ghoul or Glyph of Plague Strike, as I mentioned in my previous DW post.

Solution #2. Try an Unholy Presence rotation

Like the previous UP rotation (ITx6) this works best in heavy movement fights (more speed) and fights with something to AMS extra RP out of. One example is Ignis’ Flame Jets – a predictable source of absorbable damage. I tested it out on a dummy and it’s actually quite easy to do, especially if you’re familiar with the ITx6 rotation (which was much more complex).

There are a few spare GCDs here and there (the rotation ran very tight in BP but is far looser than ITx6 in UP) that you should always attempt to fill with either Raise Ghoul or Horn of Winter. Note that while the IT glyph is largely wasted on a BP rotation, it’s pretty much mandatory for UP. One fringe benefit to UP is that you are able to make more efficient use of Rime and Killing Machine procs since you always have spare GCDs to put them in as well as to weave Frost Strikes on KM procs (though HB should always be prioritized if you have Rime + KM).

Solution #3: Be more flexible

These days, lots of encounters have you running around like a chicken with a giant yeti chasing after it. Since this rotation frequently gets lots of RP (especially in situations where Resto Druids have Revitalize or where you are able to get RP from AMS) and sometimes reaches dangerously close to the cap, you should use time outside of melee range to your advantage. If you’re running around, make sure you’re firing off Rime-procced HBs (and even non-Rime HBs if you know you won’t be in range for a while) as well as Death Coils. This strategy requires forethought, however.

For example, don’t use up all your RP on DCs if you’re going to be in melee range soon. On the other hand, if you know you’re going to be able to AMS your RP to cap, then you should definitely toss out some DCs to avoid getting back into melee range with 130 RP you can’t use.

Solution #3: Not every Rime proc means more DPS, even though it does damage

If you’re running in BP, you should really only be using Rime procs if they coincide with KM procs. The reasoning is because we are so GCD limited we already have trouble using up RP on Frost Strike, so adding in additional GCDs will cause more problems than the ~5k damage a Rime proc provides. Keep in mind that while you are saving Rime for KM procs, you should not be saving KM procs for Rime. If you’ve got time to dump RP into FS, do it – don’t wait. This spec requires using every GCD available immediately.

Problem #2: Unbreakable Armor is very difficult to successfully fit into a rotation

Solution #1: Don’t spec into it

The downside to this option is that you lose the only cooldown you have, so all you get is sustained damage and no controllable burst. This is bad for fights that require such controlled burst (XT, Yogg) but not a huge hit for fights that don’t (Ignis). You also get a free point, likely put into either Subversion if you need threat reduction or filling out BCB.

Solution #2: Macros

I’ve started using 2 macros to try and fit UA into my rotation, and even still I’m getting messed up stuff with having one Blood and one Death Rune up, which is bad. The first macro goes like this:

/cast blood tap

/cast unbreakable armor

Ideally you do this when your Frost Runes aren’t up so you avoid using a Frost Rune to cast UA. You should also do this when your other Blood Rune is down. Now, to avoid getting messed up when you lose the Blood Tap buff, you need a second macro.

/cancelaura Blood Tap

Since what BT effectively does is give you a buff that turns one of your Blood Runes into Death Runes for the duration (and when it falls off, the affected rune always goes back to being a Blood Rune, whether you just Blood Striked or Obliterated with it), leaving the buff active inevitably screws up your rotation down the road. You’ll find yourself with one Blood and one Death Rune, somehow or another. This situation should be avoided at all cost.

I feel like I should have 3 problems to talk about but unfortunately I can’t come up with anything else right now. If you have any questions about the spec or the rotation, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments or by e-mail.

Raiding Spotlight: Argent Coliseum Strategy

4 08 2009

Every once in a while, I’ll try to take a detailed look at a specific element of the raiding game. Today in the spotlight: Argent Coliseum Strategy.

I rarely do strategy posts (and by rarely I mean this is the first one ever) but since the instance is so new and information on the coliseum bosses is scattered everywhere, I thought I’d do a quick run through of what I gleaned from watching Youtube videos of the encounters. I’ll be skipping the Northrend Beasts encounter because Matticus covered it better than I ever could here. Keep in mind some of this might be incorrect since it’s largely guesswork, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment and I’ll update later.

The Faction Champions (video link)

Remember the third boss of Magister’s Terrace? This looks similar, except instead of facing NPCs with crazy abilities, you’re matched up against NPCs of the classes you know and love, but of the opposing faction. They’re CC-able (but with diminishing returns, as in PvP). You have the option of CC-ing healers first and killing DPS or doing it vice-versa if you find yourself getting owned by the DPS.


  • They can CC you, so be ready with dispels. In 10-man, make sure you have dispels available for every kind of debuff.
  • You won’t always get the same champions (list of them here), I think, so as soon as they are visible in the coliseum figure out what classes you’re up against and set up a kill order.
  • Some more information can be found here and here.
  • Healers can all be interrupted and should have an interruptor assigned to them if they aren’t being CC’d.
  • My guild got best results from burning down the 3 healers right away and then moving on killing the most dangerous and least CC/able mobs.
  • Treat it like a 5v5 arena – CC liberally, pay attention to DRs and stay away from as much incidental damage as possible (there’s a fair amount of AoE that happens, such as Hellfire from the Warlock and Bladestorm from the Warrior).

Lord Jaraxxus (video link)

A big fire-centric Eredar guy. There’s a list of his abilities here, which you should read first since I’ll be referencing them by name. Should be tanked in the centre of the arena.


  • Summons Mistresses of Pain through creating Nether Portals. You’ll need an off-tank ready to pick them up. There’s an achievement linked to having two of these up when you kill the boss. They have their own skillset, the important ones of which are that they can leap towards raid members and cast Mistress’ Kiss on raid members which interrupts for 8 seconds if the affected raid member casts something with a cast time.
  • Casts Fel Lightning (basically Chain Lightning, like Thorim’s) so ranged should spread out to avoid chaining it. If it hits melee there’s not much you can do.
  • Casts Incinerate Flesh, which needs to be healed through (you have to do a certain amount of healing to the affected target to remove the debuff). If it’s not removed in time an infernal spawns.
  • Has a bunch of random damage and AoE damage spells, so melee will need a lot of healing. Ranged should stay at least 15 yards away to avoid taking this damage.
  • Can cast Legion Flame, which damages the target and causes that person to leave a trail of fire behind, similar to the fire in hard-mode Mimiron. Move while you have it and try to place it so it doesn’t interfere with tanks or melee DPS.
  • Can summon an Infernal Volcano, which shoots up Infernals that need to be off-tanked.

Valkyr Twins (video link) (list of abilities)

Two mobs (linked HP, I believe), 4 portals that allow you to switch between Light and Dark Essences. The Dark boss is tanked at a Dark zone while the Light boss is tanked at a Light zone.


  • Raid members with Light Essence deal more damage to the Dark boss and vice versa (but are vulnerable to damage of the opposite Essence). So you want raid members with Light Essence DPSing the dark boss and vice versa.
  • There are little dark and light orbs floating around the arena. You want to absorb those of your current Essence (just touch them) and avoid the other ones (they damage you). When you’ve absorbed 100 stacks of one type of energy, you gain Empowered (Dark/Light) and deal uber damage. This is the key to the fight (and the achievement, which is to kill them in 3 minutes or under).
  • Each sister can cast a Vortex (Light and Dark, respectively). When you get a warning that the one you’re DPSing is about to cast her vortex, quickly walk up to the portal-looking things to switch Essences so that you can absorb the damage. Switch back once the Vortex is over. As far as I saw, the Vortices were not cast simultaneously.
  • Each twin can cast Twin’s Pact, which heals them for 20%. From what I saw, everyone has to switch to DPSing the twin casting the pact (again, not cast simultaneously) because they can put up a shield that prevents spell interruption while active and needs to be broken before the heal can be interrupted.

Anub’arak (video link) (list of abilities)

He’s back! Yay… Like his predecessor, he can burrow, summon adds and swarms of bugs.


  • Permafrost on the ground means that bugs can’t burrow while on it (but it also slows movement speed by 80%). Anub’arak can’t burrow either. It looks like he’s tanked on top of it when possible.
  • While burrowed, Anub’arak’s spikes will pursue a raid member, who should run away and not through people (like Kologarn’s eye beams).
  • Summons adds even when not burowed, which should be tanked near the boss to maximize incidental AoE damage. From what I saw it looked like DPS just continued hitting Anub’arak and allowed cleave/AoE to hit the adds.
  • At some point (I’m guessing when his health reaches a certain point) he will cast Leeching Swarm, which is an AoE dot on the whole raid. 20% of health every 1 second with a minimum of 250 health per tick. At this point you simply need to burn the boss down.

Seems like there should be more for the final boss of an instance, right…? IDK.

Patch Day Checklist

4 08 2009

Things to do before the servers are back up:

1. Read this excellent post by the famous Matticus which gives you the details on the Northrend Beasts encounter – the first boss of the coliseum. (Apparently the beasts are just different phases of 1 boss. Who knew?)

2. Plan talent specs. Currently my two spec are Blood 2h and soon-to-be Frost DW. Blood isn’t changing much (at all really) but I’ve decided it’s a good time to switch from Vampiric Blood to Rune Tap, just to test it out. This is my new Blood spec.

Frost’s changed quite a bit more, so courtesy of EJ, this is my new spec. (<3 EJ.) Some notes on it: use Blood Presence, the Awareness Sigil (you kept it, right?) and get two slow weapons. Put Fallen Crusader on your MH and, for target-swapping fights FC should also go on your OH. For more single-target fights (Razorice stacks last 20 seconds, so if you’re away from the main target for longer than that on a regular basis, avoid this runeforge) use Razorice.

3. Figure out strategies for the rest of the coliseum bosses. Thank the internet gods for Youtube.

4. Kill time until servers are back up, at which point I will probably whinge at the amount of lag going on at the coliseum’s entrance. Speaking of that, where is the entrance?

Things to do once the servers are back up:

1. Catch up on Jewelcrafting stuff. Buy new recipes, prospect titanium, get epic gems, re-gem all my gear.

2. Go to coliseum. Do some new dailies and buy the tabart that lets you teleport to the tournament. (Or maybe the new Quel’Dorei horsey?)

3. Raid until sleeptime.

What’s your 3.2 checklist?

Dual Wielding Come 3.2

2 08 2009

Dual wielding is fun. It comes with a few inherent benefits: less competition for weapons, especially 1-handed swords (which you’ll only fight rogues for) and overall better physical DPS scaling. The downside, apparently, has been a revamp of the way the Frost tree works. From the fall of 32/39 spec to what’s live at the moment, for any spec going deep into Frost (i.e. not the 10/61 Unholy spec or the 17/54 Unholy DW spec), Frost Strike has been the highest source of damage in any given encounter. This is especially true with regards to the ITx6 Machinegun rotation, which sacrifices use of Obliterates in favour of Icy Touches (for more RP and therefore more Frost Strikes).

But in 3.2, according to the testing going on in the EJ DW thread, Obliterate has become the strongest ability in Frost’s arsenal. This is a little bit disappointing, for a couple of reasons. First, it makes Frost play more like Unholy in that you’re focusing your rotation on maximizing a U/F rune ability rather than on an RP ability. This has led to a new priority system that looks something like this (with a spec that looks like this), from highest to lowest priority:

  1. FF
  2. BP
  3. HB (if Rime + KM)
  4. OB
  5. BS
  6. FS

There’s also some talk of the Glyph of Disease making a comeback for DW (since it allows for an extra Obliterate/GCD for Howling Blast), but I’m not sure how well this will hold up in practice, given the target-swapping nature of many boss encounters these days. Disregarding that, though, the Disease glyph does not re-apply Improved Icy Touch, so if you’re the one bringing the 20% haste buff, you’ll need to be using IT anyways, making it a the glyph a waste. So what glyph choices are there for this spec, then?

The two obvious choices are Obliterate and Frost Strike, two of the spec’s main strikes. Things aren’t as clear cut for the third slot. The options are:

  1. Glyph of Icy Touch (more RP for Frost Strikes, with the downside that there are very little extra GCDs in this rotation, meaning you might not be able to use all the extra RP anyways)
  2. Glyph of Plague Strike (minor damage boost)
  3. Glyph of the Ghoul (requires speccing into Night of the Dead to be worth it, probably inferior to PS)
  4. Glyph of Howling Blast (since this rotation uses both diseases, the utility of being apply to skip Pestilence in AoE rotations is lost)

My initial instinct (if the Glyph of Disease becomes impractical/you have to buff the raid with IIT) is to go with Icy Touch, since having extra RP around can be helpful for interrupting, popping AMS/IBF and using Death Coils when you’re forced out of range of the boss. None of the other glyphs provide significant DPS boosts, so in this situation I’ll lean towards utility (just as currently I run with the Howling Blast glyph over the Obliterate one in my ITx6 spec).

I’ll come back to this topic as I learn more/when 3.2 hits. On a side note, there’s also the worry that DW will overtake the current top DPS spec (2h Blood) and end up being nerfed so that it doesn’t pull a 32/39 and blow every other spec/rotation out of the water.

Update Aug. 4/09: As far as Runeforges go, you should be using FC/FC unless you’re up against a fight that’s single-target enough to allow you to hit the boss without intervals longer than 20 seconds (the length of a Razorice stack), in which case you should use Razorice. You’ll also want two slow weapons for Frost DWing.

Goodbye, loyal sword?

Goodbye, loyal sword?

Lessons WoW PvP Could Learn From DotA

29 07 2009

While I was on vacation, I downloaded Warcraft 3 and The Frozen Throne to play some DotA, or Defense of the Ancients if you’re not in the loop. Playing DotA (a game made based almost completely on PvP) got me thinking about how WoW’s battleground system could be improved if Blizzard took a few lessons from DotA creator Icefrog. It might seem far-fetched or even pointless to compare a WC3 custom map with WoW, but think of it like a battleground. Each play-through of DotA takes around 45 minutes to an hour and a half. It’s a fun way to pass the time, and I realized that if battlegrounds could be as fun, varied, and complicated I might play them more often.

Instead, running battlegrounds often feels more like a long, tortuous grind, especially if you’re not playing with your guild or even a group of people you know. So what does DotA have that BGs don’t?

Variety: the spice of online violence


Each DotA game lets you choose between a large number of heroes and, as the game progresses, items. While variety like this can’t be directly translated into WoW (you only get the gear and abilities available to whatever character/class you’re playing), maybe a similar effect could be achieved. Battlegrounds are already moving in this direction, what with the addition of vehicles, seaforium charges, etc. To go further than this, though: what if a new battleground revolved entirely around vehicles, and allowed you to choose one at the beginning of each BG (or on respawn) such as the Flame Leviathan fight?

This would bring vehicles closer to the way heroes are used in DotA while giving BGs a bit more replayability due to the ability to choose different vehicles each time.


Both BGs and DotA have powerups that you can pick up to buff your character in some way for a short period. WoW has movement speed, damage and regeneration. DotA has double damage, haste, invisibility, illusion (creates two controllable copies of your hero) and regeneration. The difference between the two is that these runes (as they’re called in DotA) are central to successful DotA play, while their equivalents in WoW are nothing more than afterthoughts. Speed buffs are usually wasted (except in twinking and WSG) due to the existence of mounts. Making these short buffs strategic rather than near-useless could add new elements of play to battlegrounds.

There could even be powerups for vehicles, such as armor upgrades, speed boosts (more useful for vehicles since they usually move slower than mounts) and extra siege damage.

Map interactivity

DotA is a lot like the old Alterac Valley, but back when people actually did the quests and captured rams or wolves and turned in armor scraps. In DotA, there are neutral creeps that you can farm for gold, a neutral boss (Roshan) who drops a special item, and neutral shops scattered around the map. This means that there is more to do than solely capture enemy objectives and kill enemy heroes. For example, it offers the choice between “laning” (staying in one of the three lanes present in DotA and fighting the creeps the opposing side sends) or “jungling” (running around in the forest killing neutral creeps, usually unopposed by enemy heroes).

Some ideas to translate map interactivity into WoW are: the ability to pick up items unique to specific battlegrounds; perform tasks other than capturing objectives and killing the enemy; and maybe even teleporters or items that allow you to teleport around the map (not entirely new to WoW either, see this item).

Killing enemies

In DotA, killing an enemy hero gives you gold and experience while simultaneously denying the dead hero time in the lane, experience, and taking a bit of gold out of his coffers. In WoW BGs, killing an enemy doesn’t give you anything, aside from eliminating the competition on the way to capturing map objectives. In Wintergrasp, you gain rank (the only way to get vehicles) but it’s often easier to simply kill the NPCs scattered around the map. This is especially true if, as on my server, tenacity is often fudged up at the beginning of a game, giving one side 20 stacks for a short time.

In 3.2, Blizzard is changing the way honour works in BGs, giving bonus honour for defending objectives and capturing flags or bases. I applaud this change, but also think it should be accompanied by a different one. If there is some in-BG penalty (i.e. something that does not affect your character outside of the current battleground) for dying, it might make you think twice about rushing off headlong into a crowd of enemies, which is a popular style of BG play. In DotA, part of the punishment for death is a long respawn time, which gets longer as you level up your hero. While I don’t think WoW BGs should take on this same method (people, including me, would complain) perhaps dying repeatedly could leave debuffs, akin to resurrection sickness (but with a variety of different negative effects) and killing enemies could leave behind buffs.

This is similar to a mode called “item drop” in DotA, which, as the name suggests, causes your hero to drop an item from his inventory at each death, allowing opposing heroes to pick it up.

A 5-man battleground

People, including me, love small teams of people. I love Warsong Gulch for this reason — it’s really the only battleground that I can play with a full guild group, rather than playing with pugs. If a 5-man BG were introduced, as opposed to a new 40-man, it would make premade BG play a lot easier. It might even allow for a more serious BG, akin to arena, rather than the spray and pray approach taken in most other WoW BGs (which typically rely on large crowds of people running around attacking lone opponents). Playing with strangers generally reduces the amount of teamwork and fun available in a given BG, so a small one might make people take BGs more seriously.

Obviously not all of the features in DotA can translate successfully into WoW since the games are so different, but I certainly think that WoW could do well to craft a BG based on DotA’s successful model.